Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Resolution, Weakness and Power

It is that time of making resolutions once again. They come in all shapes and sizes. “I won’t eat as much; I’ll cut out sweets; I’ll exercise more; I’ll spend less; I’ll pay off my debts; I’ll spend more time with my children; I’ll learn something new.” Maybe you even throw in a couple of resolutions to pray more or read your bible more. Those are all good things, but trying to keep those promises in our own strength can lead to disappointment.

Once we are God’s through Christ, we have the Holy Spirit as a power, hopefully the power, in our lives, and anything we try to do in our own power is destined to, if not fail, then fall extremely short. And unfortunately, our minds somehow think that there is some kind of separation between the every day, practical things in our lives and spiritual things. We may ask God for the power to accomplish what we consider “spiritual,” but the smaller, more mundane things, we think we can tackle on our own. But when God has redeemed us, everything in our lives becomes spiritual. We are His, wholly and completely and God is the head of absolutely everything in our life.

If we need to learn to eat better, He wants to give us the power and wisdom to do it properly. After all, He did create our bodies, did He not? He knows what we each need for our bodies and minds to run as efficiently as they possibly can.

If we need to get on a budget and pay off some debt, God wants to give us the wisdom and strength to learn how to be proper stewards of our finances. After all, He has provided us with the jobs we have and the money is really His that He entrusts to us anyway, is it not?

Submitting every area of our lives to the Lord is as spiritual and holy as resolving to pray and read God’s word more. Even those promises to ourselves can leave us disappointed in our ability to keep them if we do not first seek God for the power and ability to remain faithful.

I think the apostle, Paul, had the best resolution - “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2)

Paul chose to keep Jesus as his focus. The only thing worth knowing was the One Who held the power needed for all things.

Paul continued, “And I was with you in weakness and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” (1 Cor. 2:3-5)

Paul admitted his weaknesses. The great teacher, Paul, was afraid to the point of trembling. You wouldn’t know it by his writing, though. His letters are filled with unwavering boldness. But not only did Paul acknowledge his weaknesses to himself, he even humbled himself enough to admit them to those who would look up to him. And maybe that’s precisely why he admitted those weaknesses – he wanted people to know that the strength he had was not his own, but came from the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit Who indwelled those new Christians and the same Holy Spirit Who indwells us who have given our lives to Jesus Christ.

Paul knew that if he determined to fix his eyes and heart and mind on his Lord and on the power of the cross, that he could do all things that God called him to do. And so can we.

I pray our first resolution this year is to make the choice to know Jesus better and to realize His power in our lives through our relationship with Him to carry out anything we are called to do, whether it pertains to practical, every day living, or being involved in ministry, or whatever God will ask of us in the coming year. The practical and the spiritual really are one and the same because we are to do all things unto Christ.

Maybe the first step is admitting those weaknesses. They don’t have to stop us from serving God, just as they didn’t stop Paul. Admitting the weaknesses can propel us into an even firmer grip on our Lord so that His power may rest on us and He will always receive the glory.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Faith

Why is it so much easier to have faith for other people when they’re facing trials than it is to have faith for ourselves? Why does our spiritual vision seem so much clearer when looking into the unknown future of another than when we look ahead into our own darkened passageways?

I was forced recently to once again peer into a dark unknown, an uncertain future, that if left unchanged from the present would continue to bring pain and no answers. And the only thing I heard was a Voice asking, “Will you trust Me?”

As I was trolling through blogdom recently, I came across a quote from the movie, Miracle on 34th Street. Part of it, the line that gave me pause, was this:

“Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to.”

Of course the faith referred to in the movie was a belief in Kris Kringle and all that he stood for. But ol’ Saint Nick is only a cheap substitution for where the true faith of Christmas lies. The celebration is rooted in the birth of One Who would give us all reason to have faith.

So many times we try to co-mingle faith and common sense. But faith and common sense come clashing against one another when the human side of us, the part that has to see to believe, meets the spiritual side of us when we are asked to believe without seeing. Faith and common sense go together about as easily oil and vinegar. You can try to mix them together, but because they are antagonists, they will always separate.

The story of Christmas really is all about setting aside common sense in favor of faith. There is nothing common in the events that transpired, and without faith, they make no sense.

Long before the birth of Jesus, approximately 740 years before, Isaiah prophetically foretold to Israel that their God would do the unbelievable: He would be born in human flesh.

Luke tells of a man, Simeon, to whom the Holy Spirit had revealed that he would not see death before he would see the One Who would be the Consolation, or Comfort, of Israel. There is no telling how long this man waited to see the fulfillment of this promise. Common sense would have ruled out any chance of believing in something so great. But Simeon did not walk with God by common sense, but rather by faith.

And then there was Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin. She was well advanced in years and yet had not been able to conceive a child. But an angel appeared to her husband, Zacharias, and told him that his wife would bear a child, which was beyond all common sense. And Zacharias, though he was a priest, did not believe. In that moment he faced whether or not to believe a miracle, he tried to mix the oil and vinegar, and the vinegar rose to the top. But, of course, his wife did conceive, and not only did she bear a child who would announce the coming King, but her child was blessed with a miracle of his own and he was filled with the Holy Spirit even while still in his mother’s womb.

And Mary. A simple, young, teenage girl, living in obscurity, having no important reputation or anything that would have caused her to believe that she was anyone who would be chosen by God Himself for this exceedingly great gift. She was faced with perhaps the greatest test of faith: to believe that, though she was a virgin, she would be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and would conceive a child, and no ordinary child, but a Child among men. A Child sent from God who would be the Savior of the world.

Joseph was asked to set aside his common sense, too, and believe that his dearly betrothed had not been unfaithful, but was indeed bearing the Christ child, fathered by God.

They could have peered into the future and relied on their common sense, fleeing for their safety lest Mary be stoned to death. But they stayed and submitted all their common sense to the Lord. They lived by faith, not knowing the future, but knowing their God was righteous and holy and He would see them through.

The shepherds, too, believed in the angel’s words, “Do not fear. For behold, I give to you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For to you is born today, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this is a sign to you. You will find the babe wrapped, lying in a manger.”

They believed that their Savior had come in the humble form of a baby, not in a warm inn lying on a feather bed fit for a king, but rather enclosed by a stable lying in a trough fashioned for animals.

And the wise men wisely set aside their common sense to follow a star. For perhaps months they traveled with their eyes looking heavenward to find and worship at the feet of a Child who had left His throne in heaven to come down and serve us.

There is no common sense in this true story of faith. But God was greatly glorified in the lives of so many who chose to put their faith in God rather than rely on what they could see. So the next time God asks you, or me, to set aside our common sense in favor of faith, remember the Christmas story. If you find yourself peering into what may seem to be a bleak future and God asks you trust Him, remember Simeon, who waited perhaps most of his life, believing in a promise, trusting in His God, even when he saw no evidence, perhaps walking alone in his faith. And in trusting and waiting on the Lord, he did indeed lay his eyes upon the Promised Salvation given to the whole world.

Next year, dare to set aside common sense in your walk with the Lord. Take a leap of faith into the darkness and believe. Believe the words of Jesus when He said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27)


Speaking of Christmas...

“How do you know Santa has to be a man? No woman is going to wear the same outfit year after year.”

"My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?"
~ Bob Hope, American film actor and comedian.

"I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year."
~ Charles Dickens (1812-1870), English author. From 'A Christmas Carol'.

“One Christmas, Joe and Peter built a skating rink in the middle of a field. A shepherd leading his flock decided to take a shortcut across the rink. The sheep, however, were afraid of the ice and wouldn't cross it. Desperate, the shepherd began tugging them to the other side. 'Look at that, 'remarked Peter to Joe, 'That guy is trying to pull the wool over our ice!'”

"'Maybe Christmas,' he thought, 'doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more.'"
~ Dr. Seuss (1904-1991), American author of children's books. From 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas'.

“Once again we find ourselves enmeshed in the Holiday Season, that very special time of year when we join with our loved ones in sharing centuries-old traditions such as trying to find a parking space at the mall. We traditionally do this in my family by driving around the parking lot until we see a shopper emerge from the mall, then we follow her, in very much the same spirit as the Three Wise Men, who 2,000 years ago followed a star, week after week, until it led them to a parking space.”
~ Dave Barry

"Christmas, my child, is love in action."
~ Dale Evans (1912-2001), American film actress, singer and songwriter. Wife of Roy Rogers.

"The spirit of Christmas needs to superseded by the Spirit of Christ. The spirit of Christmas is annual; the Spirit of Christ is eternal. The spirit of Christmas is sentimental; the Spirit of Christ is supernatural. The spirit of Christmas is a human product; the Spirit of Christ is a divine person. That makes all the difference in the world."
~Stuart Briscoe

"The universal joy of Christmas is certainly wonderful. We ring the bells when princes are born, or toll a mournful dirge when great men pass away. Nations have their red-letter days, their carnivals and festivals, but once in the year and only once, the whole world stands still to celebrate the advent of a life. Only Jesus of Nazareth claims this world-wide, undying remembrance. You cannot cut Christmas out of the Calendar, nor out of the heart of the world."

"It comes every year and will go on forever. And along with Christmas belong the keepsakes and the customs. Those humble, everyday things a mother clings to, and ponders, like Mary in the secret spaces of her heart."
~ Marjorie Holmes, American writer.

“I never realized God's birth before, how He grew likest God in being born...such ever love's way--to rise, it stoops.”
~Robert Browning

“I am not alone at all, I thought. I was never alone at all. And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent. For this is still the time God chooses.”
~Taylor Caldwell

"Eternal God, this holy night is radiant with the brilliance of your one true light. May that light illuminate our hearts and shine in our words and deeds. May the hope, the peace, the joy, and the love represented by the birth in Bethlehem this night fill our lives and become part of all that we say and do. May we share the divine life of your son Jesus Christ, even as he humbled himself to share our humanity. Amen."
~Rev. Richard J. Fairchild

Monday, December 15, 2008

Pecan Snowballs

1 cup butter flavor Crisco
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoon milk or water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 3/4 cups flour
1 cup oats
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 teaspoon salt
sifted powdered suger

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Beat first four ingredients until creamy. Add combined flour, oats, pecans, and salt; mix well. Shape rounded teaspoonfuls into balls. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet 15 to 18 minutes or until bottoms are light golden brown. Roll in sifted powdered sugar while warm. Cool completely on a wire rack. Reroll in powdered sugar. About 4 dozen.

Photo courtesy of Sean Harris


So the other day I was on my way home from our annual Women’s Christmas Tea. Well, it’s usually a Brunch, but this year it was a very delightful Tea. Along with all kinds of tea and coffee with flavored creamers, there was a beautiful spread of sandwiches and too many sweets to choose from. Somehow I managed to choose anyway. A lovely gift of a little booklet was also given to each of us and I was planning on reading through it when I got home. All I saw was the name Billy Graham on the front cover.

I stopped by Starbucks and grabbed myself a venti decaf iced mocha and was headed out the door to the parking lot with thoughts of getting my house in order. I looked up and blocking my way to my car was a small, very old, very beat up car. I saw the driver, a haggard-looking woman, who started to say something to me that I couldn’t quite catch. My ears finally began to tune in to what she was saying: she didn’t have any money and needed some food for her and her children, who I saw out of the corner of my eye sitting in the back seat. She muttered something about praying for me as a thank you if I could help her out.

Now, I’ve been faced with situations like this before. Unfortunately, my past experiences have made me quite cynical about handing out money to strangers who confront me like that.

The scene usually goes something like this:

(In the parking lot of a gas station) “I don’t have any money and my car is out of gas. I have to get to *insert some far-away location*, could you please give me some money?”

“Where’s your car?”

“It’s around the corner”

“Well, if you’ll pull your car up to a gas pump I’ll pay inside to put so you can put some gas in your car.”

Waiting, waiting, waiting…No car in sight.

So as I stood there staring at this woman in the beat up car with my $4 coffee in my hand, I finally manage to grunt out a “huh,” trying to bide my time while I decide whether or not I should help this woman and her nearly grown children. There’s a grocery store in sight and I figure if I say I’ll meet her in the store she’ll turn me down or simply won’t show up.

“Wanna meet me at Safeway?” I say.

“Sure,” she says.

That immediately throws me for a loop. She drives off while I get in my car, look around and see that she’s nowhere in sight. I have a clean get-away if I want. But something inside says, “No, you told her you would meet her there, you should follow through.”

So I drive over, park, walk to the front of the store, and sure enough, she’s standing there with a cart in her hands. As I’m walking toward her and her son I’m thinking, “How am I going to do this? Am I going to shop with her? I have no cash. How much should I allow her to get?” I meet up with her and we walk inside. She tells me she hasn’t gotten her food stamps and thanks me profusely. I tell her just to think of it as a gift from the Lord and she says, “Are you a Christian?” and I say, “Yes.”

“Praise the Lord!” she responds. I still can’t tell if she’s genuine or if it’s an act. She tells me I can shop with her or I can purchase a store gift card for her. I tell her that’s a good idea and she moves right to the aisle of an empty lane and spots one immediately. She’s done this before. I purchase the card, and begin to look for her. One full lap around the store and I finally see her walking toward me. I give her the card and pull the Billy Graham booklet from my purse and give it to her. We exchange hugs and I leave her to her shopping.

For a day or two I mull over in my mind whether or not I should have helped her. Is she a drug addict or an alcoholic who uses her government assistance to fund her addiction instead of feeding herself and her family? Is she somehow going to use the gift card for something other than food? The mom in me didn’t want to enable a bad habit.

I will probably never know the truth, but God does. I do know that I walked into that parking lot at the exact moment she drove through. I know that for an inexplicable (okay, maybe not so inexplicable) reason, I drove to the grocery store instead of heading home. I know that I had tucked away a Billy Graham booklet in my purse just that morning and it was on my heart to give it to her. I know that I have prayed for her and her children more than once since that Saturday.

And I know that there was a time when I was beat up from sin and my heart had been anything but genuine. But I asked God for help and He didn’t judge me. I was guilty, yes, but God had sent His Son to be born as a babe in a humble stable, to grow up and die on a cross. He had already paid the price of the judgment for my sin. Instead of judging me guilty, He showed me mercy and gave me new life.

Our God is a benevolent and merciful Father and He loves to see His children show mercy, too, at Christmastime, and always.

“He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)


Saturday, December 13, 2008


Okay, nobody kill me. :) I am going to do my very best not to change the look of the blog again. Unless I see something I like...


Friday, December 12, 2008

Lord, Hide Me

Lord, hide me in the bend of your wing.
Let me take flight with you now
Far above the suffering.

Lord, hide me in the bend of your wing.
Carry me above the darkness
Where your love is all I'm seeing.

Lord, hide me in the bend of your wing.
Enfold me as we soar above
Where we can rejoice together and laugh and smile and sing.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

The "Be-Attitudes" Part 6

Pure in Heart

Okay, back to our walk through the Beatitudes. Last time we saw that as we share the mercy that God shows us with others, we will then be shown mercy. And as God pours out His mercy upon us and wipes away the guilt of our sins, our hearts are purified of all unrighteousness.

“Blessed are the pure in heart! For they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

Our God is spirit and can be known only by spirit. He is a God who indwells us, yes, but He also dwells on the Holy Hill and only a pure and upright spirit can climb that Holy Hill.

“Who shall go up into the hill of Jehovah? Or who shall stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart; who has not lifted up his soul to vanity, and has not sworn deceitfully.” (Psalm 24:3-4)

And even though God, through Jesus Christ, has removed the guilt of our sin, our hearts are still full of sinful attitudes and ways. If we remain in spiritual infancy, our focus will continue to be on ourselves rather than an increasing vision of a holy God.

So, we need our hearts to be continually purified of our sinful thoughts and attitudes if we are to know our God on an ever-deepening and intimate level. If the purification process stops, the level of our relationship with God will at the very least be halted, and at the most regress. There are (at least) two ways that this continual purification process occurs.

1. God purifies our hearts through trials.

Just like the refining process for gold, God uses heat in our lives to melt our hearts, then the dross of selfishness and pride and fear, and on and on, rises to the surface, Jesus removes it from our hearts as we repent of it, and the process starts all over again.

So that’s why we’re not to be surprised at the trials facing us. Every believer faces trials and if we remember that their purpose is to be a purifier for our hearts and allow God to do that work in our lives, we will begin to see purpose in them. Our attitudes will be more humble throughout the trials and we will have our eyes open to what God is trying to say to us about what ungodly attitude or trait He is trying to purify from us and we will more quickly repent of those sins.

2. We need to keep our minds out of the gutter.

A dirty mind makes for a dirty heart. Though Jesus Christ imparts to us mercy and cleanses our hearts of unrighteousness when we bow before Him, and God continues to cleanse our hearts through trials, we are responsible to keep our minds from entering into that which would sully them. It is cheap grace, indeed, when a person continues in sin with the twisted thought that, “God has to forgive me.”

“..neither be partaker of the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.” (1 John 5:22)

I have never in my life been so keenly aware of the infiltration of sexual images and sexual discussion into just about every place I turn as I have been lately. Something that was meant to be a personal and intimate form of love between two married people, a man and a woman, by the way, has been exploited in every way possible. It takes a concerted effort to not allow our minds to dwell on these images or get pulled into an irreverent discussion on t.v. or even the “news” about who did what to whom.

When we allow our minds to wander in those areas, or any area that is not glorifying to God, we are living by our flesh and not by our spirit and our vision of God becomes cloudy. But when we walk by the spirit and live in obedience to our God, our spiritual vision begins to clear and we are able to see God in a way we never had before.

In our verse in Matthew 5:8, the word “see” does not refer to a casual glancing or even an observation, but rather to gaze at with wide open eyes, as at something remarkable.

When our hearts our pure we will see a pure God with a jaw-dropping, eye-popping awe that is meant only for Him. His love will so encapsulate us that we will not be able to take our eyes off Him. We will know Him as a loving, dependent child knows a protective parent; as a bride looks upon her bridegroom with adoration and expectation. We will begin to know His voice, even the slightest whisper. His ways will become familiar to us and they will become our ways as we walk with Him day and night.

So, the question is, how well do you want to see and know God? Do you want to know Him so well that you feel as if you drew your arm up beside you you would touch Him? Do you want to hear Him whisper promises and even give you visions for the life He has in store for you? Do you want to be able to trust Him with your very breath no matter what happens?

The extent to which you answered “yes” is the extent to which you will embrace your trials and sufferings as a means to that end. And compromise will never enter your mind, but only thoughts of “things that are true, honest, right, pure, lovely, of good report; if there is any virtue and if there is any praise, think on these things.” (from Philippians 4:8)